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Authors: Nnedi Okorafor

Lagoon (10 page)

BOOK: Lagoon
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This time when he attacked her, nothing magical happened. He wasn't held down by some mysterious force or anything like that. Then again, this time she felt no fear, no desperation, no shock. And she wasn't alone with him in their home, as she had been last night; there were soldiers and a mob around her. But still, she realized, she'd expected the strange force to have its effect, if necessary. She could
it happen.

Oh God,
she thought.

It took two soldiers to pull Chris off Adaora. They wrestled him to the ground. Adaora grasped the gate for balance. She stared down at the man she'd lived with for over a decade who'd never ever laid a hand on her up until last night.

“Witch!” Chris sobbed as a soldier pushed his head to the concrete.

Benson took her arm, more gently than before. “Come on,” he said. “Let's move to the front. Maybe you can help.”

It was easy for them to get through the captivated crowd of fans, Christians, soldiers, Black Nexus members, curious passers-by, and press people now. Even Father Oke was speechless, the metal cross in his hands forgotten.

Where a moment before there had been a tiny green lizard, a woman now stood. Ayodele, in the middle of the lawn, looking at the crowd.

*   *   *   *

“Mommy!” Fred shouted when he spotted Adaora through the fence. Anthony squinted then waved. Adaora waved back.
At least
she's alive,
Anthony thought. Before he could stop the child, Adaora's son ran across the lawn to his mother. Anthony didn't dare move. The crowd was bewildered, confused, frightened. Anything could set them off. They didn't need to see him do anything but stay where he was.

As Fred ran toward Adaora, Ayodele looked down at Kola, who was still filming her. “You are doing a good job, Kola,” Ayodele said. Kola grinned and continued filming. “You see your mother?” She pointed and Kola looked.

“Mommy!” Kola said, waving.

Adaora waved back with her free hand. Fred had reached her and was holding her other hand through the gate.

“Keep the camera on me, Kola,” Ayodele instructed. Kola nodded, holding the camera up. She had about two hours of battery time left; she'd checked.

Ayodele looked over her captivated audience. She raised her chin and smiled.

“Greetings, people of Lagos,” she said.



The Lagos Internet café was full of the usual suspects. There was the owner, Nonso Daouda, who sat behind his counter doing a poor job of not seeing what his customers did with his computers and Internet connections. Then there were about twenty men between the ages of nineteen and forty—all were in the process of e-mailing, texting, chatting, researching. Some were legit, most were up to some sort of 419. There was also one woman chatting with her boyfriend overseas. There was not one person here who had not been here yesterday doing the exact same thing.

Suddenly all the screens blinked off. They came back on showing the face of a young woman who called herself Ayodele. Everyone in the café sat back, watched, and listened. One guy who'd been in the process of texting his sister was watching the beautiful woman with long braids on his mobile phone.

“We landed here in the night,”
the woman said, her strange voice smooth and confident. The picture moved a bit. It was obvious that someone was holding the camera and trying his best to stay still.
“From beyond Earth. From space. You all will call us aliens. We are guests who wish to become citizens . . .
We chose here. I am the first to come and I greet you.”

*   *   *   *

The Lagos restaurant served everything from Nigerian cuisine to Chinese food. Expats and locals alike frequented the place. That's what gave the Tribe's Calabash its reputation and popularity. Today
it was full. But, now, all the eating and conversation had stopped. The eyes that weren't watching the wide-screen high-definition television on the wall were glued to mobile phones, computers, an iPad prototype, even e-readers, where the same slightly shaky footage aired.

I apologize for the noise of our arrival and your rising waters from our landing,”
Ayodele said.
“Nobody is attacking you. And nobody will dare now. The winds of change are blowing. We are change. You will see.”

*   *   *   *

In a busy open-air market in the central Nigerian city of Abuja, people crowded around a clunky television that was for sale in a used-electronics booth.

“In less than twenty-four hours, I have seen love, hate, greed, ambition, and obsession among you,” Ayodele said. “I have seen compassion, hope, sadness, insecurity, art, intelligence, ingenuity, corruption, curiosity, and violence. This is life. We love life.”

*   *   *   *

Unoma was driving her old but wonderfully reliable off-white Peugeot down the Lagos Expressway listening to an Anthony Dey Craze song when her mobile phone buzzed. When she flipped it open to answer, the footage Kola was filming showed on the small screen.

Unoma worked hard to keep her eye on the road. “What the—?”

“Please, listen to me,”
Ayodele was saying.
“Consider me, consider us. As you have much to offer, so do we.”

Unoma pulled her car over to the side of the road to watch Ayodele on her phone. There were several cars in front of her that had also pulled over. Every single one was filled with people holding their mobile phones.

*   *   *   *

In Lagos, father, mother, and boy child sat in their family room, watching the alien on their old television. The adults wondered if what they were witnessing was real. Or maybe this woman on TV
claiming she was from outer space was some sort of elaborate hoax. The mother had flipped through the channels, and the alien was speaking from every single one. But how hard could it be to take over Nigeria's broadcasting networks?

The boy child soaked in every word. Why not? It was so cool,

“We come to bring you together and refuel your future,”
Ayodele said.
“Your land is full of a fuel that is tearing you apart.”

*   *   *   *

In Saudi Arabia, the Nigerian president, the First Lady, and two other officials, Yuusuf and Nicholas, were in the president's hospital room watching Ayodele on Yuusuf's mobile phone. It was a cheap phone he'd bought in Lagos. He hadn't turned it on in weeks, since he'd arrived in Saudi Arabia with the president. Why would he, when his phone service didn't reach outside of Nigeria? However, minutes ago, it had turned itself on and started communicating a most peculiar message from a strange woman.

We do not seek your oil or your other resources,”
she said.
“We are here to nurture your world.”

A single thought went through the president's mind:
Benson was
telling the truth.

*   *   *   *

Ayodele looked out at the people. Kola was directly in front of her with the camera, and so it seemed that when Ayodele looked at the crowd before her, she looked out at all the people watching on large and small screens in Lagos. The expression on Ayodele's face was serious, almost threatening. Intense.

“So, what will you do?”
Ayodele asked.

Her captivated audience was completely silent.

Then . . .



Bar Beach was deserted. There were now barricades preventing anyone from coming onto it. A minute after the second great sound eruption, military men and police who'd been guarding the place had dropped or pocketed their mobile phones and run off. The noise was enormous. It was bigger and richer than the one from the previous night. All the car and building windows within a one-mile radius were shattered; birds, insects, and bats fell to the ground; dogs barked; cats hid; lizards scurried; several forms of bacteria died, and others germinated. The noise this time was so profound that many of the weaker multicellular organisms in parts of the ocean closest to the source were obliterated. This kind of noise would awaken goddesses, gods, spirits, and ancestors.

Only Private Agu sat on the beach, yards from the water, sopping wet. The cut on his forehead had begun bleeding again, but the swelling on his face had gone down . . . some. The sea cow had left him about a fifth of a mile from the beach. As he'd started swimming to safety, a rip current nearly dragged him back out to sea to his death. Thankfully he knew to swim parallel to it and managed to make it to shore.

He'd crawled out of the water and turned to see if the sea cow was anywhere in sight. It was gone. It probably hadn't even witnessed his brief struggle in the water. And that was when he'd heard the sonic boom. It knocked him off his feet, and he fell, face-first, into the sand, where he lay for a long moment, his ears ringing. He
didn't cover them. He didn't wipe the blood from his face. He forgot for the moment about finding his way back to Adaora's house to find them: Adaora, Anthony, and the possibly evil Ayodele. Instead he just sat there. For nearly twenty minutes, he sat there.

Gradually, he realized something was happening. He squinted at the sea. At first all he could see were tiny weaving lights against the darkening sky. Then he became aware that he was no longer alone on the beach. There were people with mobile phones and flashlights. He could hear voices raised in excitement.

A crash came from the street behind him, but his attention was drawn to something that was lying on the beach, huge and black against the city lights. Was it another monster? He'd seen plenty in the sea as the manatee had brought him to shore. But if it was, why would these people be here? It was black and nearly the size of a bus, and there was a crowd around it.

“A whale?” he whispered, squinting harder. It didn't help. He got up and stumbled toward the huge lump, but then his legs collapsed and he sat down hard on the sand.

There was a man running from the lump up the beach. He changed course and ran to Agu, a grin on his face. He was carrying a big whitish chunk in his arms. “Na from street you come?” he asked.

“No,” Agu said.

The man laughed. “You look like say na from de street you come. Anyway, no
. People dey craze. Na only God fit provide. E get big fish for there wey from water come. De fish face look like autobus, but e get plenty meat for body.”

“What . . . ?”

“Go get your own before other people take am finish, o!” the man said. “Na sea pork! De meat is so sweet!” He took off with his meat before Agu could say more. Agu felt as if the world had turned upside down. Everything seemed dreamlike. He looked toward the street where the flames of a burning building lit up the area. He saw
and heard people milling about vigorously in the streets and cars and trucks beeping as they tried to get through. It looked like a riot. Yet here were these people carving up what could only be a whale. Even in the midst of such chaos, people were still people. Still hungry and hoping to take advantage of a good situation.

As he sat, he saw shapes in the water, illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun, moving toward the land. They grew, rising out of the waves, coalescing into recognizable shapes. Human shapes. They were people, hundreds of people, walking straight out of the ocean onto Bar Beach. First they were wet. Then they were dry. At least, that was how it looked to Agu in the waning light. Some passed by only a few steps from him. Others walked farther up and down the beach. Several walked out of the water mere feet from the dead whale. The Lagosians were so preoccupied with securing their share of the bounty that they never looked twice at the space people walking out of the sea.

Some of them were dressed in various types of traditional garb, some in military attire, some in police uniforms, others in Western­ized civilian clothes. Most of them were African, a small few Asian, one white. All were completely dry, and Agu could smell roses and seaweed as they drifted past him. All of them could pass for Lagosians.

They walked up the beach as an enormous object, all shifting oily black spires and spirals and brown and yellow lights, rose out of the water. It swallowed up the darkening horizon with its girth.

Only then did the people carving up the whale pause to look up. Then they took their meat and got out of that place as quickly as possible.



For a tarantula, he is not very big. He lost a leg battling a pepsis wasp five years ago. But he is healthy. He lives well. This patch of forest is good for him—full of plump, slow-moving, and juicy prey, and rich dark places to catch them.

Nevertheless, the tarantula believes that life is best lived by embracing the changes that come his way. So he gently places a leg on the warming pavement; the leg beside the space of the one he lost. This leg is the most sensitive, always has been. With it, he can feel the soul of the great spider artist of the land, she who weaves all things into existence.

There is no vibration on the road. No approaching human vehicles. But he knows that when they come, they come fast and hard. He has crossed this highway many times. And always in the late evening when the surface is cool. Like now.

Still, each crossing has been a close call. First he would feel the vibrations, and then a vehicle would appear on the horizon. He'd scramble for the other side, wondering if it was finally time to be reborn. But he had always made it and gone on to experience the meaty bloody bounty of the new patch of forest.

Today it is time to seek fresh pastures again. Something dynamic has happened. Last night, he felt a vibration so intense it made his entire body shudder with pleasure. Then hours ago, he felt an even more intense vibration, down to the finest hairs on his body, the
spinners in his abdomen, the bottoms of each of his feet. The vibration was glorious. It was a call for change.

Now, he will answer that call.

The moment his sensitive leg touches the pavement, he starts running. Strangely, losing a leg has made him faster and more agile. This has always been to his advantage in capturing food and mating. Despite the physical pain, the blow to his identity that the loss of the leg caused, he knows that that wasp did him a favor.

He is only a third of the way across the road when the rumbling comes. The vibration. But not the delicious vibration of last night, or of hours ago. This one is average, expected, uninspiring. A human vehicle. The tarantula scrambles faster, certain that he will make it across. Certain of his extraordinary speed.


*   *   *   *

Once Adaora's car passes the small stretch of road flanked by forest, this portion of the Lagos–Benin Expressway stretches its old tired asphalt with ease and comfort. The crushed body of the large, seven-limbed tarantula sinks into the road's sun-warmed surface like fresh palm oil on hot bread.

Ayodele will be fascinated at this aspect of her new world. She has yet to realize that there are other things inhabiting Lagos besides carbon-
based creatures. There are greater beings of the earth, soil, sea, lagoon, and land. This stretch of highway has named itself the Bone Collector. It mostly collects human bones, and the bones of human vehicles. But
sometimes it likes the chitinous bones of spiders, too.

BOOK: Lagoon
8.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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